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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

Q & A on Temperament

My three-week-old son wants to be held all the time. What should I do? - As tough as it can be for new parents who just want a few minutes to themselves, the fact is that very young babies often prefer being held to any other position. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint—staying close to your source of food and protection is actually pretty savvy. Read More

My 2-month-old cries so much more than her sister did, and so much more than all my friends’ babies. Does this mean she’s going to be more difficult later on too? - You can put your fears to rest. By and large, the research shows that young babies who are fussy are NOT more likely to grow up to be cranky kids. Read More

My 2-month-old cries hysterically when I dress or undress him. What’s can I do? - Don't feel bad—many babies protest at being changed. Going from feeling warm and cozy to being exposed can be very uncomfortable. Imagine what the womb must have felt like to him: warm and protected, soft and comfy. Your baby still prefers feeling like that now that he's out in the world. It's no wonder he loves being in a warm onesie and swaddled in a blanket. Read More

My 3-month-old hates the same mobile that his cousin loves. What’s going on? - Children have different levels of tolerance for stimulation. While some can handle lots of sound and movement all at once, others find it overwhelming. It sounds like your baby is telling you that this mobile is more than he can handle. One option is to put the mobile away for now and try it again later when your son is a bit older and his neurological system is more mature and stronger. Another is to help your son adjust to increasing amounts and kinds of stimulation by letting him look at the mobile without turning it on—no movement, no music. When he seems to be calm and enjoying that, try gently moving it so he can see it turn. If he can handle this and likes it, you can try adding the music. Read More

How can I help to motivate my 9-month-old to move around and explore? He seems to prefer sitting and observing the action. - Just as adults have their own approach to the world, so do babies. Some are outgoing and eager for new experiences while others need more time to get used to new situations. Some are very action-oriented and love to explore through movement. Others are content to observe and explore in less active ways. Read More

My child is so active and determined to get into everything! I feel like I’m saying “no” too much. - As hard as it may be, work on redirecting your little explorer, rather than discouraging him. Try to figure out what is capturing his interest, or what skill he is trying to master, and create a safe and acceptable way for him to explore. For example, if your toddler is digging through the houseplants, put them out of reach but offer a close alternative. Read More

My 11-month-old absolutely hates being in his car seat. - Car seat protests are totally normal and expected. Kids who are beginning to develop exciting new physical skills, such as standing and walking, don't like being strapped in. While we can be flexible about some parenting issues, using car seats is not one of them. What to do? Read More

My one year old cannot stand taking a bath. - The first step is to try and figure out why he hates the bath. He may be very sensitive to certain sensory experiences. He might not like feeling wet, hate having his hair washed, feel too cool while he’s being toweled off, or doesn’t like the texture of the towel or the smell of the shampoo. If this is a sudden change for him, then it is likely that he had an experience that made him fearful. The water during a recent bath may have been too hot and felt uncomfortable. Read More

My one year old acts as though he is afraid of my brother—he won’t let him hold him and cries if he comes too near. What should I do? - Even very young children can have preferences about all kinds of things—food, toys and, yes, people. That’s part of what makes children so unique and delightful—they don’t cover up their feelings. It gets awkward, though, when a child reacts negatively to someone, especially someone close to you like a family member. Read More

I took my 14-month-old to a new playgroup last week. All the other children were running around and exploring happily. My son clung to me for dear life.  - Children approach, take in, and react to the world around them in different ways. We call this their temperament. One aspect of temperament has to do with how a child approaches and reacts to new situations. For example, there are the very flexible children, the “roll with it” types, who eagerly approach new situations as if to say, I’m here. Bring it on! On the other end of the spectrum are children who are cautious and fearful of new situations and need time and support to adjust. Read More

My 15-month-old never stops moving. He won't sit for longer than a minute or two to play with a toy or read a book. Can a child this young have ADHD? - It certainly sounds like you have a very busy, active toddler. And in this day and age, when many parents are hearing so much and are concerned about ADHD—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—I can understand why you might wonder about your own child. Read More

My 16-month-old is in a stage where he wants to do everything for himself. How should I handle this? - You can’t. Sixteen-month-olds are not rational beings so forget any strategies that include logic! What you can do is feel proud that you have nurtured your son’s self-confidence, curiosity, and eagerness to learn. Of course, it’s also true that curious, confident kids can be a handful—just as you describe—because they want to do everything by themselves. The good news is there is a lot you can do to encourage your son’s sense of competence while also keeping him safe and you sane: Compromise. Read More

My 17-month-old is shy and doesn’t like being “smothered” by our very affectionate extended family. What can I do to make these moments easier for all? - The fact is that toddlers don’t understand and are not bound by grown-up do’s and don’ts. Your daughter is just openly expressing her feelings in exactly the way 17-month-olds do—without worrying about the other person’s feelings. But while her behavior is quite normal, it can make for some sticky situations with visiting relatives. Read More

Does my toddler have a "short attention span" because she won't sit for a story for more than a minute? - It is perfectly normal for toddlers to not sit still very long--period. Most don’t like to stay in one place for long now that they can explore in so many new ways-- by running, jumping and climbing. So, an adult's idea of snuggling on the couch to hear a story may not be the same idea a toddler has for story-time. Read More

When he doesn’t get his way, my 19-month-old will scream at the top of his lungs. - You're not alone. One of the biggest challenges of parenting is separating ourselves from our kids’ behavior. Unfortunately, these strong emotional reactions tend to encourage the very behavior we are trying to stop. For example, when parents show how badly they want their child to use the potty, it often increases the child’s resistance to using it. Read More

How can I control the increasingly detailed routine that my 2-year-old demands at bedtime? - I knew my own daughter’s bedtime routine had become unmanageable when one night, after an hour of kisses, stories, rocking, singing, and blanket placement, she asked for a final hug and I snapped at her, "Fine, but this is IT!" In that moment, I thought to myself, whatever happened to bedtime being a warm, nurturing time? After an hour, all I felt was trapped and at the mercy of a very small and sleepy dictator. Read More

My 2-year-old is pretty physical—he will hit or push his older sister to get a toy, for example. What’s the best way to respond to this type of behavior? - That’s the beauty, and challenge, of having multiple children—no two are the same. The behavior you describe is actually very common at this age, especially for children who are feisty and physical like your son. Why? Two-year-olds do not yet have the impulse control necessary to stop themselves from going for something they desire, even if they have been told countless times to “be gentle” or “take turns.” In addition, most don’t yet have the language skills to verbally express their thoughts and feelings, so their primary means of communication is through their actions. Read More

How do we teach our incredibly shy 2-year-old how to be more outgoing? - It can be quite challenging to have a child whose personality and way of approaching the world are very different from yours. The good news is that you’ve taken the first and most important step—you are aware of the difference. This knowledge will help you better understand your son’s needs as he grows. Read More

My toddler will throw a tantrum until I carry him. How do I stop this? - Ah…the "I want up" syndrome. This clingy behavior is often a signal that your child is feeling insecure and wants to be babied a little more than usual. Often when children make a developmental leap, such as starting preschool or moving to a bed, they experience some sort of regression. While your big boy may be quite proud of his new independence, the separation can be scary, leading to increased clinging. Take a look at what's going on right now that might be making him feel less secure. Is there a new baby in the house? A recent move from crib to bed? A new babysitter? Did he switch rooms or caregivers at child care? Read More

My 2-year-old always has to have her way. How can I help her become more flexible? - You are not alone. For some children, flexibility and toddlerhood just don't go together. The truth is what looks and feels like total inflexibility is a natural and important part of your child's development. Two-year-olds are at a stage when their sense of self is emerging. Read More

Our child care has expressed some concern about our 2 ½ year old’s aggressive behavior. What should we do? - Aggressive behavior in toddlers is not uncommon. They have strong feelings that they express in many different ways, often through action. Aggression can be the result of many different things—frustration that they can’t do or have everything they want, difficulty managing strong emotions, recent changes in their lives (new baby, parent on a business trip)—and countless other reasons. Read More

My child is so easygoing that other children just snatch toys out of his hands. Is this a problem? - A: It's hard to see your child on the receiving end of a behavior that, at best, isn't nice and, at worst, is hurtful. It can be even harder to watch your child sit back and take it. It sounds like your son may be a quiet, introverted child who shies away from conflict, or he could just be a mellow, easygoing kid. Either way, being tuned in to his temperament—his typical way of approaching the world—will help you understand why he behaves as he does. Read More

My 3-year-old wants to wear the same clothes everyday. - While you might not love his "uniform," wearing favorites over and over is a stage most children go through. Preschoolers have very little control over most things in their lives. Letting your child choose what to wear gives him some "say" over something that matters to him, while making an issue out of it can create a more fierce attachment to this outfit. And if the day comes where all three of his favorite sweatpants are in the wash, don’t panic. Read More

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RELATED INFORMATION

My toddler will throw a tantrum until I carry him. How do I stop this?
Read More
My 2-year-old always has to have her way. How can I help her become more flexible?
Read More
Our child care has expressed some concern about our 2 ½ year old’s aggressive behavior. What should we do?
Read More
My child is so easygoing that other children just snatch toys out of his hands. Is this a problem?
Read More

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